Centrino Pro outdated already?


Damn that's cocky. Intel hasn’t even launched its Centrino Pro CPUs for notebooks yet but it’s already demonstrating the replacement using the mobile version of Penryn.

The company showed off a notebook running Penryn and Microsoft Vista Ultimate last week to the media as well as its developer forum this week in Beijing and said it expected Penryn to be a drop-in update with Santa Rosa notebooks.

The Santa Rosa update, due in May, will bring 802.11n, Intel Turbo Memory and a mobile version of the Intel 965 chipset with the ICH8M south bridge as well as higher clocked CPUs and an 800MHz front-side bus.

For those who don't understand Intel's confusing Centrino nomenclature, the CPU is called the Core 2 Duo but when paried with a qualifying chipset and wireless part, vendors may call it "Centrino."

Santa Rosa Core 2 Duo chips will still be based on the current 65nm process technology in current “Merom” chips but Intel said the new chips will be the first to feature the use of Enhanced Dynamic Acceleration Technology. EDAT works by overclocking one of the cores by up to one “bin” for single-threaded applications that only impact one core. Intel said it is able to do this because the second core is effectively running in low power mode and putting out less heat.

In theory, a Core 2 Duo T7700 operating at 2.4GHz on an 800MHz front-side bus could ramp one of the cores up to 2.6GHz. A Core 2 Extreme X7800 operating at 2.6GHz could operate at 2.8GHz and the rumored Core 2 Duo X7900 could bump from 2.8GHz to 3GHz on such common single-threaded applications as games. It’s not clear if EDAT is actually a silicon change to the CPU or simply overclocking one core at the BIOS or drive level.

A fully functional Penryn-based notebook was tucked in among a rack of Santa Rosa notebooks at Intel HQ.

The company also showed off its upcoming Intel Turbo Memory that will be part of Santa Rosa. Similar in concept to Microsoft’s ReadyBoost , Turbo Memory will mount from 512MB to 1GB of flash RAM in an a mini-PCI ExpressCard and will be used to cache data so the slower hard drive does not have to be accessed as much. It will offer both a performance boost and a power boost as the hard drive should not have to be spun up as much. On similarly equipped machines, a notebook with ITM was about twice as fast as a notebook without ITM in browsing Google Earth and opening the image up in Photoshop Elements 5.0.

Intel will make ITM available two ways: as a mini-PCI ExpressCard package and as parts a notebook ODM can integrate directly onto the motherboard. Intel says the advantage of ITM over Microsoft’ ReadyBoost include must faster access via PCI Express and there’s no need to have a USB thumb drive hang out the side of your notebook. Like ReadyBoost, the advantages of ITM will be lessoned as main memory is increased. The boost from a notebook with 512MB will be greater than one with 2GB of RAM, the company said. Even so, consumers would see better boot times through the use of the cache.

Penryn-based CPUs in notebooks are expected by next spring at the latest when Intel introduces its “refreshed” Santa Rosa platform.

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